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I've been learning German on-and-off for just under a year now and today - as happens all too often - I came across one of those sentence constructions that totally threw me.

Here it is:

Besonderes Interesse findet bei den Kleinen die Wasserrutsche.

Although I can figure out the meaning, the word order and phrasing is unlike anything I've seen before. I just can't seem to make it mentally "fit" my mental model for reading German sentences.

As I'd like to be able to interpret and form similar constructions in future, could anyone shed light on how to read such a construction? Perhaps it's idiomatic; perhaps there's even a name for it.

My feeling is that it's something akin to the following English construction:

Of particular interest to the children is the water slide.

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  • "Besonderes Interesse bei den Kindern findet die Wasserrutsche" sounds better to me. Or "Besonderes Interesse findet die Wasserrutsche bei den Kindern". Can't articulate the reasons, though. – Em1 Mar 22 '17 at 15:25
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Your translation "Of particular interest to the children is the water slide" is actually quite good.

In terms of style, this is an awkward sentence. I could imagine reading something like that in a local newspaper where some amateur journalist publishes a report on some local sports club's summer festival or so. Such writers tend to use very artificial or bureaucratic style. A more natural way of saying this would be:

Die Kinder finden die Wasserrutsche besonders interessant.

Bei den Kindern ist die Wasserrutsche besonders beliebt.

Besonders beliebt bei den Kindern ist die Wasserrutsche.

Die Wasserrutsche ist der große Hit bei den Kindern.

In oral communication you would most probably say:

Die Kinder finden die Wasserrutsche toll.

But "toll" would usually be avoided in written language.

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    Thank you @ChristianGeiselmann for the excellent explanation (and for pointing out my mistake). Your suggestions are much more readable. But with regard to the original sentence... do you have any suggestions how a native English speaker might interpret the construction more easily? Thanks. – Wortschatz Mar 22 '17 at 15:09
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    Your third sentence would be better with "ist" behind "bei den Kindern" – Em1 Mar 22 '17 at 15:22
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    Now I understand that it's the water slide that's doing the finding (subject-verb agreement), I see that the sentence translates more literally like this, though it sounds awkward in English too: The water slide finds particular interest with the children. So my mistake was mixing up subject and direct object. I still find that hard sometimes, especially when the word order is "jumbled up" in this way. Guess I just need more practise! – Wortschatz Mar 22 '17 at 15:38
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    @Wortschatz German is more flexible than English when it comes to word order. The different grammatical cases allow to distinguish between subject and object: die Wasserrutsche is nominative, while den Kindern is dative (plural). Thus, the latter is the the object. – Arsak Mar 22 '17 at 16:01
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    @Marzipanherz den Kindern is dative plural, not accusative. – jarnbjo Mar 22 '17 at 16:02
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The answers given provide plenty of useful information but in piecemeal form, so I'll attempt to summarise and the experts amongst you can refine/correct my answer as required. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Besonderes Interesse findet bei den Kleinen die Wasserrutsche.

Native English speakers may find such constructions difficult to interpret because German is more flexible in terms of word order. Subject and object can be interchanged, for instance, with the grammatical case used to identify which is which.

In the given sentence, the subject is "die Wasserrutsche" (nominative singular) and the object is "den Kleinen" (dative plural). Another clue to interpreting the sentence is that the verb form "findet" is the 3rd-person singular form and thus we can see that is "die Wasserrutsche" that is doing the "finding". In summary: a degree of mental unscrambling is required to determine an appropriate English translation.

Quite literally, a clumsy and exceptionally formal English version might therefore be:

The waterslide finds particular interest with the children.

A more reasonable (though still overly formal) translation that approximates the german word order might be:

Of particular interest to the children is the waterslide.

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